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After World War II, a general and his young lieutenant were traveling by train in England. When they boarded, the only seats left were across from a beautiful young lady and her grandmother. The soldiers sat facing the ladies. As the train pulled out it went through a long tunnel. For about ten seconds there was total darkness. In the silence of the moment, the train’s passengers heard two unmistakable sounds – a kiss and a slap. Everyone on the train had their own perceptions as to what happened.
The young lady thought to herself, “I’m flattered that the lieutenant kissed me, but I’m terribly embarrassed that Grandmother hit him!”
The grandmother thought, “I’m aggravated that he kissed my granddaughter, but I’m proud she had the courage to retaliate!”
The general wondered, “My lieutenant showed guts to kiss the girl, but why did she slap me by mistake?”
The lieutenant was only one who knew what had happened. For, in the brief moment of darkness, he had seized the opportunity both to kiss a pretty girl and slap his general.
Blind spots are the areas where we are in the dark about ourselves. We are oblivious to our blind spots, and they may wreak havoc on our leadership. Last edition of Leadership Wired, I began a discussion of leadership blind spots by looking at the dangers of a self-centered perspective. In this article, I’d like to examine another widespread blind spot—insecurity.
The Blind Spot – An area in the lives of people in which they continually do not see themselves or their situation realistically. This unawareness often causes great damage to the people and those around them.
Personal insecurity may be the most widespread blind spot in leadership. Insecurity causes a leader to think selfishly when the very essence of leadership is to focus on others. Insecure leaders place their followers in jeopardy, put the organization in peril, and even endanger themselves.
Telltale behavioral signs make insecure leaders easy to spot. First, insecure leaders have a hard time giving credit to others. Insecure people operate from an internal deficit. They are empty inside, and, as such, they are constantly seeking affirmation. Bottom line: insecure people are needy people.
A second symptom of an insecure leader is the habit of withholding information. Communication can be a form of empowerment, but insecure leaders conceal it to gain control. They may even leverage information to manipulate those they lead. By releasing information a leader demonstrates trust and confidence, whereas withholding it belies a fear and insecurity.
Another warning sign of an insecure leader is the habit of feeling threatened by the growth of others. Instead of empowering those they lead, an insecure leader may deliberately stunt the growth of followers. A classic example comes from observing a bucket of crabs. If one crab is trapped in a bucket, it will have no trouble climbing out. However, if several crabs are trapped, they will never escape. As soon as one begins to climb toward freedom, the others will pull it back down. Like the crabs, insecure leaders habitually drag down those around them.
A final quality of insecure leadership is micromanagement. Insecure leaders are control freaks. Distrustful, they have tight reigns on everyone and everything.
As a leader, how do you fix a blind spot when you can’t even see it?
# 1 Ask Those Who Know You Best to Identify Your Blind Spot.
For instance, I’ve asked my assistant, Linda Eggers, for feedback on my blind spots, and she has kindly and candidly helped me to discover them.
My Blind Spot: Since I assume right motives in those around me and believe in the importance of a great attitude, I do not always give a timely and realistic assessment of the people and situations around me.
I couldn’t have articulated this blind spot on my own. I needed someone else to verbalize it for me, and Linda enabled me to see it.
#3 Openly Discuss Your Blind Spots With Your Inner Circle.
Be transparent with you inner circle about your recurring blind spots. You will need to rely on your team to counterbalance your personal weaknesses.
#4 Assume Your Blind Spots Cannot Be Removed By You.
Remember our definition of the Blind Spot – “An area in the lives of people in which they continually do not see themselves or their situation realistically.”
I have had the same blind spots my entire life. I’ve learned to compensate for them, but I’ve never been able to remove them.
#5 Develop and Empower a Team to Cover Your Blind Spots.
I’ve been able to avoid the pitfalls of my blind spots by surrounding myself with quality people. For instance, whenever I face a major business decision, my brother, Larry, goes with me. He is much shrewder than I am in the business arena, and his perspective covers the deficiencies in my vision.
Delegation can also save you from the dangers of a blind spot. My tendency to see the best in others and to put my faith in their potential has led to some horrible hiring decisions. My organizations didn’t start to hire better people until I quit being the one who hired them.
Dr. John C. Maxwell has authored over 30 books, including such New York Times best-sellers as “Failing Forward” and “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.” Global Truss Introduces A Portable Archway System

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